This story is being reprinted with permission from NEXT which remains its appropriate copyright owner.By Idris Akinbajo
She really was not required to enroll for national service. As Diezani Alison-Madueke settles into her second tour of duty as Nigeria’s petroleum minister, she wouldn’t have been burdened by the raging controversy that she skipped national service had she not needlessly lied about her exact year of graduation from the university, a NEXT investigation has shown.
Our months-long investigations in Nigeria and the United States, where Mrs Alison-Madueke attended university, showed that the minister actually graduated from Howard University in 1992 when she was already 32 years old.
Under the National Youth Service Corps Act, the one-year compulsory national service is only mandatory for Nigerians who graduate before the age of 30. Given the age at which she graduated, Mrs Alison-Madueke did not need to serve and is eligible for exemption from the programme. She cannot, therefore really be held liable for ducking it.
But it was the minister herself who created the confusion about her NYSC status by lying about when she graduated. In the resumes she personally circulated for several years, in search of jobs and appointments to public offices, Mrs Alison-Madueke claimed she obtained her Bachelor’s in Architecture from Howard in 1987 when she was 27. She also created the impression that she had more post-graduation experience than she actually had.
Based on that claim by the minister, this newspaper had conducted a comprehensive investigation into her national youth service status, which led us to report that she skipped the one-year programme.
Howard faults Mrs Madueke’s claim
But our investigations in the past months have revealed that Mrs Alison-Madueke actually backdated her graduation date by five years. Responding to a May 24 enquiry from NEXT, Howard, though its official, Kerry-Ann Hamilton said the minister graduated from the university and was awarded a Bachelor of Architecture degree under her maiden name, Diezani K. Agama, on December 8, 1992.
To be sure that the Diezani of Ms. Hamilton’s record is actually the oil minister, our reporter wrote the university again on June 3, providing her maiden as well as her married name. The Howard spokesperson responded same day indicating that Diezani K. Agama and Diezani Alison-Madueke were one and the same person.
She added, “Our alumni database shows an update to married and female in 2010. This database is different from the records database. It is most current. The records database showed what applicants indicate prior to enrolling.” In a telephone interview with our reporter two weeks ago, Ms Hamilton dismissed the suggestion that Mrs Alison-Madueke graduated in 1987 but that the university held on to her certificate till 1992. She said Howard was not in the habit of withholding the certificates of its students who had fulfilled all requirements for graduation. She further explained that the university authorities could not have withheld Mrs Alison-Madueke’s certificate if she had completed her course work for a degree five years earlier, saying the Minister could only have finished her programme and graduated in 1992.
“In the back and forth that we’ve had, I kept checking her records. I did not come across any evidence that her certificate was withheld,” she said.
A narrative of lies
It is not clear what Mrs Alison-Madueke’s motivations were for backdating her year of graduation in her personal records. Mrs Alison-Madueke and her spokespersons would not comment for this story. The minister refused to respond to telephone calls and text messages seeking her comments. When NEXT contacted Malachy Agbo, her spokesperson, he listened patiently to our enquiry and promised to get back with his response. He did not as at the time this newspaper went to press. He also did not answer subsequent calls made to his mobile telephone.
But sources suggested that she could have used it to curry favours in the early years of her life.
“You know when applying for jobs, some employers demand for some years of post-graduation experience. She probably did that to prove she had some years of experience in her early post-graduation life,” a source close to the minister told NEXT.
“By claiming that she graduated earlier than she actually did, the minister has fooled her previous employers, and enjoyed an unfair advantage over those who competed for positions with her,” said an official at the Ministry of Petroleum, who did not want to be named for fear he might be victimised. “What she has done is perjury. It is criminal and such a person is not fit to hold public office.” In her most widely circulated curriculum vitae, which she also provided to senators for her confirmation hearings, Mrs Alison-Madueke claimed she attended Howard University between 1983 and 1987 for a five-year professional degree in architecture, a statement her publicist repeated in a press release after she was reappointed minister early this month.
Post graduation, Mr Agbo claims in the release (find it here http://www.randburg.com/nigeria/diezani-alison-madueke.asp), Mrs Alison-Madueke worked at American Interior Builders Inc. as Project Engineer before joining Furman Construction Management Inc. Rockville, Maryland, as Design Coordinator in 1988. Her CV claims she returned to Howard University as an in-house Project Manager and a member of the Planning and Development team in 1990 and then joined Shell Petroleum as Head, Projects Unit, Estates, Lagos.
Mrs Alison-Madueke’s critics say this career narratives are now in doubt.
“You can’t build something on nothing,” said an official of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, who is peeved that President Goodluck Jonathan proceeded to reappoint the minister despite the weighty allegations of corruption hanging on her neck. “Since she lied about her graduation date, she must have lied about her work history as well.” Going by this new revelation that she only made it out of the university in 1992, Mrs Alison-Madueke has barely one-year post-graduation work experience before she was hired as a unit head in Shell.
“This is unbelievable,” a former lawmaker exclaimed in an interview with our reporter. “I am suspicious that her claim that she graduated five years earlier than she actually did, must have misled Shell into giving her that position.” But by the time she became petroleum minister in 2010, Mrs Alison-Madueke momentarily appeared to have grown weary of lying about her graduation date. In the version of her CV she provided to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, the minister was silent on when she passed out of Howard, although she stated clearly in the same document that she obtained an MBA from the University of Cambridge in 2003. But the falsehood appears to have continued, as shown by her resume recently circulated by her aides.
A curious sex record
Another bizarre aspect of Mrs. Alison-Madueke’s record with Howard was that the university believed she was male until she applied for a change of status sometime in 2010.
When we first contacted her in May, Ms Hamilton explained that Mrs Alison-Madueke enrolled into the University as a male, saying the minister “is a male according to our records.”
In a subsequent correspondence, the Howard University spokesperson further explained, “our alumni database shows an update to married and female in 2010.” “This database,” Ms Hamilton stated, “is different from the records database. It is most current. The records database showed what applicants indicate prior to enrolling.” It is not clear whether Mrs Alison-Madueke deliberately applied to Howard as a male or whether it was the university that jumbled her records. The minister rebuffed an opportunity to state her own side of the story.
Her conduct is criminal
Some critics say the jumbled dates do not detract from her need to answer questions about her past.
“That is false and fraudulent representation and it is a criminal offence,” said Jiti Ogunye, a Lagos based lawyer.
Mr Ogunye explained that if the minister secured the public offices she has held based on the fraudulent information she provided, she could be prosecuted.
Bamidele Aturu, another lawyer and human rights activist, was unequivocal in condemning Mrs Alison-Madueke’s conduct.
“It is immoral. The person has misled the Senate, has misled the nation. It does not show that the person is a good example to our young people,” Mr Aturu said, while explaining, “Since the information was not made on oath, it cannot be considered an offence before the law.” A series of investigations by NEXT has shown that Mrs Alison-Madueke’s leadership of the petroleum ministry has been characterised by monumental corruption. This involves arbitrary awards of crude lifting contracts to obscure companies, fraudulent assignment of prospective rights in five lucrative oil blocks to two barely established companies and extortion of bribes from marketers.
Editor’s Note: This story, which was part of the famous Diezani series, was first published on April 10, 2011, in 234next.com. It is being republished for record purpose only, especially because the 234NEXT website is down. More articles in the series will run here in the days ahead.